Consideration of Lords Amendments
On Tuesday 26 March, MPs considered amendments made to the Bill by the House of Lords. The Bill was previously known as the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, and has been changed to Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Bill.
Following debate, all amendments were agreed to and the Bill completed its Parliamentary Stages. Later in the day it also received Royal Assent, and becomes the Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Act 2019.
MPs debated the remaining stages of the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill on Monday 21 January 2019.
Shadow Minister for Health, Justin Madders, opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition. The Minister for Health, Stephen Hammond, responded for the Government.
The House of Commons rejected a number of new clauses and agreed to the third reading of the Bill without a division. The Bill will now pass to the Lords for consideration.
Stephen Barclay, The Minister for Health and Social Care, moved that the Bill receive a second reading, saying,
"It is clearly in the interests of the British public to ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements continue when we leave the EU".
Justin Madders, Shadow Secretary for Health and Social Care, responded for the Opposition. He expressed some concerns about specific clauses, but said these would be raised at the committee stage, and broadly welcomed the Bill's introduction.
"The Opposition welcome any efforts to safeguard healthcare for the estimated 190,000 UK expats living in the EU and the 50 million or so nationals who travel abroad to EEA countries each year."
The timing of the Bill was also criticized by several MPs, but ultimately it passed on the nod. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill was then committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Public Bill Committee
The Bill was debated in Committee stage on 27 and 29 of November 2018.
What is the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill?
At present, the UK is part of a complex EU healthcare system that allows UK citizens to access healthcare while living, working, or visiting the EU, and reciprocates this benefit for EU citizens in the UK. The current system includes healthcare for pensioners, students and migrant workers, as well as funding UK residents to receive treatment unavailable in the UK in other EU countries.
After Brexit, regardless of the deal reached, the government will need to renegotiate reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU, or with individual states. This Bill aims to enable the government to respond to a wide range of options, by giving the Secretary of State new powers.
Broadly speaking these would allow the Secretary of State;
- To fund and arrange healthcare outside the UK,
- To give effect to healthcare agreements between the UK and other countries, territories or international organisations, such as the European Union (EU),
- To make provision in relation to data processing, which is necessary to underpin these arrangements and agreements.
The UK currently has reciprocal healthcare arrangements with several non-EU nations, including Australia and New Zealand, though these are considerably more limited in scope than the current EU deal. This Bill would also enable renegotiation, or strengthening, of existing reciprocal agreements and the negotiation of new ones, outside the EU.
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